Matthew 18: 21-35
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
Holy Child and St. Martin Daly City
I see troubled faces today. Would you try to smile and look around and with that smile say, “The Peace of the Lord be with you.” Let us give each other the sign of Peace.
One of the easiest acts a Christian could do is to forgive, forgiving someone whom you have a grudge with, someone who has been inconsiderate to you or treated you differently, who did injustice act towards you. And in this occasion, a group of extremists with some ideology to cause endless memory of pain and hate in the heart of our nation and the family of those innocent victims in Pennsylvania, those in the twin towers and the pentagon. But in the same manner, the hardest act a Christian could do is to forget, forgetting the bitterness, anger and hatred of a conflict that many times result to a violent act. For how can anyone tell the little child to forgive and forget on what happened to her dad aboard that flight when she was just 5 years old and now she’s 15; The family of the pilot who had to rearrange his flight schedule so he could celebrate their wedding anniversary the following day. What about the victims of those thousand innocents at the twin tower merely working for a living, how can you tell their family to just forgive and forget?
In our own loss, whatever and however cause it was done, how can we forget. Teresa was just 5 when she lost her father. She has been missing the
love of a father. The Beltran family loss of their mother this week must be a difficult time. Losing someone you dearly love is painful.
It is hard to even have the grace to see beyond the pain to the gain. To have the grace to see that while pain was done – God was able to use that pain for good. Often for us that is a most difficult thing. We can’t see anything good coming out of the harm that others have done us. We can’t see any reason for mercy – for forgiveness – even if, in other areas of our life, we prosper. We carry the wounds of the past with us, we remember the hurt done us, we think of what might have been, rather than looking at our life as it is now and seeing in it the hand of God to do good for many, and from that point of view, forgiving the harm done to us by few.
It was said, “To err is human, to forgive Divine.” When God had to sacrifice His Son to death on the Cross for our sinfulness, it must have been a hard and painful decision for Him. But God looked beyond what that event had to
give, the Grace of our Salvation, the ransom of many from eternal death to
Our Gospel today is a continued reading this season’s readings on Church Unity and reconciliation. The parable in Matthew 18:21-35 tells us of a king who wished to settle account with his slaves. As one who owed him ten
thousand talents could not pay him, he summoned him to be sold together with his wife and children and all his possessions but the slaves fell on his knees and pleaded the king to have patience with him and he will pay him everything. Moved by compassion, the king ordered the slave to be released and he forgave him.
But as the forgiven slave went out, he met one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii, he seized his fellow slave and asked for payment. His fellow slave pleaded him and fell on his knees, but he did not listen to the plea. Instead, he threw his fellow slave into prison until he could pay him. When the king heard of it, he was furious and handed the unforgiving slave to be tortured until he could pay his debt.
Forgiveness as here described, is the bestowal of mercy and the cancellation of indebtedness. Doubtless, when it is exercised, normal relations are restored. But the peculiar nature of the action described is that, it makes the restoration possible. When the lord of the unmerciful servant asked, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant?” He did not mean, “You ought to have had restored him to fellowship.” But “You ought to have remitted his debt of one hundred bucks?”
True fellowship indeed, with the merciful lord is actually lacking. So little is it present that the servant can take his comrade by the throat and cry, for the sake of the debt “pay what you owe!” and yet he has been forgiven! The conclusion is inescapable that Jesus is speaking of a stage antecedent to reconciliation when he applies the teaching of the parable in a somber words, “so shall my heavenly father do unto you, if you forgive not everyone from your hearts.
Forgiveness means reconciliation, and it must mutual, it can not be one sided. Though the advance may be made by one party, both parties must concur. A hand is extended, it must be grasped.
The barriers on either side must be thrown down. Jesus was telling
Peter, “If your brother or sister sin against you, rebuke him and if he
repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seventy times in a day, seven
times he turns saying, “I repent” you shall forgive him, knowing that it is of
One of the things Satan could not understand or perhaps wouldn’t like to understand is when he complains to God about forgiveness. He says,
“God, you’re unfair, so many sinners do wrong and you take them back. In fact some came back half a dozen times and you always welcome them. I make one big mistake and you condemn me forever, it is not fair.” To which the Lord said, “Why, did you ever ask forgiveness or repent?”
Very often we pray, “Forgive us our sings as we forgive the sins
of those who sinned against us.” We often ask the Lord for forgiveness and
claim that we have forgiven those who have done us wrong. But after a while, we find ourselves digging into the past offenses done to us. In divine
forgiveness, the guilt and debt of sin are cancelled and repentant man is
received back into fellowship with the father.
Let us take note of the terms “repentant man” although forgiveness
is a gift, it won’t be given to us unless we repent for our mistakes. Divine
forgiveness is not meant to be kept, it has to be shared and given to those who need it. Just as God has forgiven us and has cancelled our trespasses, we ought to forgive and cancel the trespasses of others with all our hearts. Healing of wounds take a long time and it may even leave a scar. That scar could be itchy at times, calling us to scratch it and wounding it again, worst, inflicting it further damages. Forgiveness is impossible by our own human effort. We need the help of the Almighty.
The business of the Christian Church is to make peace and love not
to wage hatred against hatred. Let justice do its part without the stain of
hatred. Let us forgive those who were just used by few individual powers whose aim is to wage hate and pain. Let us not submit ourselves to that same
feelings. An eye for an eye will leave everybody blind. Let us instead chose
light by leading others about true forgiveness and love so that our Father in
heaven will be pleased.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the reason I asked you to give peace in the beginning is because I had the question in mind that, “How can we be sharing one meal today if we have hatred in our hearts to those whom we share the body and blood of Christ?” Were we not taught that before we come to the altar, first, we must reconcile ourselves and to others before we receive the gift? And whatever miracle happens in the Eucharist, we shall go out full of joy telling the whole world the greatness of God! Now when we do this, let the beauty of your heart be manifested in your face and your lips, SMILE! For when you smile, you will find the secret of life walking in you. May God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit give us strength and joy to proclaim the truth. Amen.